0

Can the author of software make it proprietary after making it gpl?

migrated from law.stackexchange.com Jun 16 at 15:48

This question came from our site for legal professionals, students, and others with experience or interest in law.

2

Yes, the author (or whoever holds the copyright) can do as they please, changing the license at will. But only close up later versions, what was distributed under an open source license stays forever open.

Case in point is SSH: It was open source up to version 1, version 2 (clearly a development on version 1) is closed. OpenSSH took version 1 (still open source) and created an extension handling the new protocol, released as open source.

  • 1
    "what was distributed under an open source license stays forever open" I'm not sure that's entirely true. It's perfectly possible for me to take code to which I own the rights, and which I was distributing under (say) GPLv3, and instead start distributing it under a proprietary licence. People who have already got it from me are completely entitled to continue to use it under the terms of GPLv3, and distributing it themselves (under GPLv3) should they wish to. But I am not obliged to continue doing so should I choose not to. However, that's a fine point, and mostly I agree with you. – MadHatter supports Monica Jul 18 at 9:00
  • @MadHatter, a license gives the recipient certain rights (in the open source license cases, it includes the perpetual right yo modify and distribute). The author can't just take that away. – vonbrand Aug 4 at 14:58
  • The author (well, rightsholder) can't take that away from people to whom (s)he has already given it, I agree - but (s)he is completely free to stop giving those rights to future recipients of the code. – MadHatter supports Monica Aug 4 at 15:06
  • @MadHatter, if someone got the right to redistribute, they can still do so. If I decide not to distribute directly anymore makes no difference. – vonbrand Aug 4 at 15:09
  • I completely agree there's no practical difference, assuming you (wanting a copy of the code under the original licence) can find an earlier recipient thereof, and they agree to give you a copy. It's a fine point I'm making, as I think I've said already - but to say the rightsholder can "only close up later versions" is, at least, ambiguous. Some people think that once you've distributed foo-1.1.1a under GPL you are obliged always to do so, and that's simply not so. – MadHatter supports Monica Aug 4 at 15:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy